Moving To Take Market House

Resolution Would Let Council Use Eminent Domain To Conclude Dispute

April 19, 2009|By Tyeesha Dixon | Tyeesha Dixon,tyeesha.dixon@baltsun.com

Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, with the support of all eight aldermen on the city council, has introduced a resolution that would condemn the lease for Market House at City Dock, allowing the city to use eminent domain to take back control of the nearly vacant property that is being managed by a private company.

The city has been embroiled since 2007 in a legal battle with Market House Ventures Inc., the private company that manages the property, over a faulty cooling and heating system. The case is scheduled to go before a judge in June.

The city claims that Market House Ventures is in default of its lease for not making "good faith" efforts to find tenants for the property, which currently has two tenants, including a bank.

"It's been frustrating, trying to solve the problems," Moyer said at the Monday meeting. "The resolution supported by all the council is another tool to move us forward."

Market House Ventures has called the city's attempt to use eminent domain "devoid of merit" and the claims of defaulting on the lease unfounded.

The council also introduced other pieces of legislation at Monday's meeting, including bills that would:

* Define graffiti as a misdemeanor crime;

* Establish temporary parking permits for people rendering medical care to residents in special residential parking districts;

* Provide a one-time property tax credit for residents with an existing home that must have a fire sprinkler installed according to city code.

In other legislative matters, the council voted down a resolution sponsored by Ward 5 Alderman David H. Cordle Sr. that would create a hiring freeze for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends in July. Moyer expressed concern that because the city is in the process of coming up with the next operating budget, a hiring freeze could complicate the process. Other council members expressed sentiment that implementing a hiring freeze now would have little, if any, effect on this fiscal year.

The council voted for a bill that allows retailers to voluntarily put up a sign notifying customers if their products' containers contain bisphenol-A, a chemical used to coat many canned products and has been under fire recently for its potentially negative health effects, particularly for babies.

The bill, which Moyer introduced, originally called for the requirement of signage warning consumers of the risks of bisphenol-A and identifying a Web site they can visit for more information.

Moyer offered a watered-down version of the bill, which would make the signs voluntary, after the council's economic matters committee returned an unfavorable action on the issue. During a hearing on the bill earlier this year, representatives from the manufacturing industry and scientific field offered testimony against the bill, pointing out a continuing Food and Drug Administration study that is looking into the long-term effects of the chemical.

Moyer called the economic matters committee decision "perplexing."

"This is an information issue, and it wasn't about banning stuff," Moyer said.

Also at Monday's meeting, the city honored five restaurants for meeting the criteria to become Annapolis' first round of Certified Environmental Stewards. The program recognizes energy efficiency, water conservation, environmental education efforts and other criteria. The five restaurants honored were:

* b.b. Bistro

* BREEZE, Loews Hotel Annapolis

* Bruster's Real Ice Cream, Forest Drive

* The Purple Tooth Wine Bar

* The Rockfish

The city will be holding two workshops on Environmental Best Management Practices for Restaurants Thursday at City Hall for restaurant owners interested in participating in the program.

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